Thursday, November 29, 2007

The world beyond Madison Square: Economic downturn? Merely smoke and mirrors.

Michael Micciche, Head of Institutional Product Marketing at Wachovia, sent me the column below, from a Dow Jones web site.

The writer, Chris Pummer, expresses his belief in a rosy--well, rosy-ish--future, and posits that if we're not careful, gloomy predictions could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pummer offers five examples of how he feels we are trying to talk ourselves out of the roses and into recession.

Micciche comments:

"My question has always been, okay, so we're heading for recession. are we all going to die? is it never going to end? is this the beginning of the apocalypse?

"The press would have us stock up on canned water and crackers and head for the fall-out shelters...."

Chris Pummer doesn't think that time has come. Here's what he does think:

In a column on the Dow Jones Market Watch web site, "Five signs we're jawboning ourselves into a recession," posted Thursday, November 29, 2007, Pummer says, "U.S. consumers have taken $3-a-gallon gas and a drop in our home equity in stride. Yet the media seems hell-bent on convincing us multinational banks' subprime mortgage losses and a weak dollar will torpedo the economy in a way the stock market's collapse, mass layoffs and 9/11 scarcely did in 2001."

He quotes Mitchell Marks, an organizational psychology professor at San Francisco State University, as saying, "There is a herd mentality with prevailing outlooks on economic conditions because few of us want to be caught unprepared.....If people get bombarded with a grim message, that herd grows bigger and stronger."

Pummer goes on to list five signs that he says mean we're getting needlessly skittish. Among them is the media's reaction to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's prediction November 8 that the economy would "slow noticeably" in the months ahead.

"Those two words were highlighted in broadcast reports and headlines as if they were warning of a coming economic Armageddon," Pummer says. He reminds us that the word "noticeably" means "perceptibly," not calamitously.

"In the last two quarters, the economy grew nearly 4%--well above the 2.5% to 3% sweet spot former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan aimed for in setting monetary policy. Economic growth could slow by a third and still be within that range."

He also cites the reaction to Starbucks's recent report that its third quarter sales fell by 1%.

"Many analysts trumpeted that as a sign we're all into a belt-tightening mode that could crimp consumer spending, which drives two-thirds of economic growth," he says. However, he attributes the drop to Starbucks's "brazen price hikes" this year despite rising competition from lower-cost franchises.

Pummer concludes, "Consider this: the combination of the NASDAQ's 80% drop, a two-thirds rise in our unemployment rolls and the trauma inflicted by a puissant Arab extremist together produced just one of the shallowest recession in U.S. history. You gotta believe it'll take more than a passing credit squeeze to cause the world's greatest economy to falter again."

For the full article:

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

TriBeCa? Fifth Avenue? NO! Madison Square Park!

Only a couple of months ago I was marveling on this blog about the $5,000,000 condos being sold on our Park.

Well, you can forget $5,000,000.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Paul Davies, a British interior designer and developer, has signed a contract to buy three upper floors at One Madison Park for a mind-boggling (at least for us MSPers)


Yes, residential real estate on our Park has moved well into eight-digit territory.

Wendy Maitland, a broker for the building, was quoted as saying this is a record price for a single condo below 59th Street.

Of course, if it turns out he doesn't combine them into a single residence (Maitland said he is presently planning to combine at least two), it will count as multiple sales and won't set a record.

But still!

Maitland also said in the Times that the building is 95% sold at an average price of about $2,500 per square foot.

Look down at the floor. Visualize a square foot. Now visualize $2,500. In 1986, I paid a paltry $314 for the square foot I'm looking at as I write.

Now I'm going to dust it. Tenderly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From the World Outside Madison Square

Apparently the gloom has lifted and the doom has gone away, at least some of it, and at least temporarily.

Reports that Wall Street bonuses were going to be way down this year have proven false. There's lots of money out there and a whole lot of it will be spent on real estate.

It doesn't look like the Manhattan market will drop significantly, but if it does, it won't be because nobody on Wall Street could afford to buy an apartment.

Bloomberg News's report that some bonuses will hit $10 million or more seems conservative. Elizabeth Stribling told us in a sales meeting last week that Stribling has a number of clients whose bonuses will be in the $50 million range.

This from NY1: (Please note that I left out the part of the story that dealt with the impoverished state of the other four boroughs. Didn't want to depress anybody. )

"Wall Street Firms To Hand Out Record Bonuses November 20, 2007

"Despite billions in losses, numerous layoffs, and plummeting stock prices, Wall Street firms will reportedly hand out a record $38 billion in bonuses this year.The money is distributed among almost 200,000 employees of the big Wall Street firms.Bloomberg News reports some bonuses will hit $10 million or more.

"The money comes from record fees for setting up corporate mergers, underwriting initial public stock offerings, and bond sales. The fees made this the industry's second most-profitable year despite the mortgage meltdown.

"These well-paid Wall Street executives are helping to boost the average income in Manhattan to the highest level of any county in America.According to new statistics from the federal Labor Bureau, Manhattan residents have made, on average, $2,821 a week. That's up nearly 17 percent from last year."

The Word From Babs

A friend passed on this tidbit from the "Ask Barbara" (Corcoran) column in the Daily News:

"Madison Square Park is picking up speed daily. With celebrities moving in (Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber have just bought there!) and big brand developers drawing up blueprints, prices will soon go through the roof!

"Remember, Madison Square Park is tiny and there's not a lot of properties to go around.

"So get your husband out of his La-Z-Boy chair, put on your sexiest dress and take the old guy on a stroll around Madison Square Park this weekend. You'll probably come home as the proud and sexy owner of a brand-new condo."

Barbara Corcoran used to refer to herself as the queen of Manhattan real estate. I never bought into that--the duchess, maybe, but not the queen. That title, of course, belongs to Elizabeth Stribling. However, Barbara got it exactly right this time.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dine with Confidence--Madison Square Park

Eat! Eat! Eat! You're way too thin!

The Flatiron Partnership BID ( has sent me a lovely full color e-mail all about food.

It seems seven new restaurants have lit their ovens in the Madison Square neighborhood in recent months, and they all sound divine.

Philip Massound’s ilili (it means “tell me” in Lebanese), on Fifth between 27th and 28th, offers such delicacies as duck shawarma with pomegranate molasses, fig and green onion, and steak tartar with burghul, red onion and mint.

“With its soft amber lighting and candlelight, walls paneled in cedar and copper, and red and burgundy leather chairs, ilili is designed to evoke the ambience of a Mediterranean sunset,” the e-mail says.

Pomegranate molasses! Yum! Reserve at 212-683-2929.

Primehouse New York has opened on Park South at 27th, and I will NOT repeat the dreadlful pun that’s in the e-mail regarding this event. But I will tell you it says the main attraction is the beef, which is “aged in an on-premises, custom-built room tiled in Himalayan rocksalt” (mere Catskill rocksalt would never do).

There is also an extensive raw bar, seafood and something called Unrack of Lamb. Call 212-824-2600 to steak your claim (oh, dear—I did tell you after all! Sorry! Hope it didn’t ruin your appetite).

The space on Broadway once occupied by the long and well-beloved Mayrose (Broadway and 21st) now houses Lunetta, an iteration of the Lunetta in Boerum Hill.

Homestyle Italian cooking includes “Flying Pig” porchetta and lentils, meatballs in toasted garlic and tomato sauce, crisp cod served with fennel and citrus salad, and on and on. Call 212-533-3663 and pigs will fly.

Chef/owner Alex Urena has reopened the Spanish restaurant on East 28th (Park & Madison) that originally carried his name. It’s now called Pamplona, my e-mail reports.

It’s less expensive now, but Urena worked for years with David Bouley, and that sort of thing doesn’t wear off.

So there’s paella with rabbit and bomba rice, gazpacho with shrimp and goat cheese, as well as several Basque-inspired dishes and some classic tapas. 212-213-2328.

Then, for lighter fare and takeout, there’s Jim & Della on 23rd just east of Park. Sandwiches, wraps, grilled panini, quesadillas, plus hot entrees, soups, salads and desserts.

The offerings sound a lot like those of Pax, on the northeast corner of 23rd and Park.
I’m looking forward to checking out which place is better.

Jim & Della, however, also offers a catering menu with everything from cold cuts to filet mignon. 212-777-3266.

Hale & Hearty Soups will soon open at 40 East 23, and since this will be its 20th location in New York, I don’t have to tell you what it’s all about. However, the new branch will be the only one to offer breakfast (pastries, not health-food stuff) and a larger choice of desserts. 212-533-8800.

The seventh gastronomic adventure is Aspen, with—wait for it—a Colorado-themed menu, which means bison sliders, pan-fried brook trout tacos, black Angus flatiron steak, etc., etc., plus other entrees like wild salmon with beluga lentils and beets.
Find them all on 22nd between Fifth and Sixth. 212-645-5040.

AND—if you feel sufficiently guilty—and you should!—when the hungry and homeless people sitting on the benches that circle the park are watching you as you trundle off to sample pomegranate molasses and other delights, call Neal Flowerman, Volunteer Coordinator for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

The Coalition reports that one out of every six New Yorkers lives in a “food insecure” household. Call 212-825-0028 or e-mail to find out how you can help.

Having spent many hours volunteering at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (9th and 28th, 212-807-6821, ask for Clyde), I can tell you there is no more rewarding experience than putting a tray with a hot dinner on it in the hands of a hungry person who would not be eating otherwise. Try it. You’ll see.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Park South! Park SOUTH?

From 19th to 32nd Street, it's determined to turn itself into the next Meatpacking District. Here, from The Real Deal's Amy Miller, is the story.